Date of Award

12-2009

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Sociology

First Advisor

Lesley Reid - Chair

Second Advisor

Robert Adelman

Third Advisor

Ralph LaRossa

Fourth Advisor

Donald Reitzes

Abstract

I conducted a qualitative study, interviewing thirty-three workers from the baby-boomer generation, with an objective of examining the intersection of aging and economic restructuring for boomer professionals. Participants’ careers had been impacted by the restructured economy at a point after they reached the age of forty. I applied an identity theory framework that emphasized meanings associated with growing older in the workforce, changes in the economy, self-meanings, and behavior in the restructured workplace. My focus also included process and questions of structure and agency. I used grounded theory methods to provide theory that explains the experience of transitioning from an existing work role as a downsized worker seeking a new job, entering selfemployment, or pursuing a reinvention of one’s career. I examine the transition process, the effects of structure, the formation and maintenance of identity in the transition role, and the factors that impact transition outcomes. I propose a theoretical argument that provides a comprehensive framework for the transition process. I establish transition as a relatively new and legitimate role for today’s worker, identify hegemonic structure as being particularly influential in the development of transition role identities, conceptualize personal resources—specifically self-esteem, selfefficacy, and authenticity—as key aspects of maintaining identity during transition, and investigate worker attributes that relate to transition outcomes. I assess career outcomes in terms of how successfully the transition role is negotiated and identify characteristics that comprise successful and unsuccessful transitions. I then discuss the implications of unabated economic restructuring for boomer professionals and, more broadly, for the future of the U.S. economy.

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